Sunday, 13 October 2013

Terracotta and teapots in Cock Lane

This gorgeous tile and terracotta facade marks the former London showroom of steam engineer John James Royle. The premises in Cock Lane, Smithfield promoted his products made in Manchester: radiators, water heaters, industrial evaporators and the like. Indeed, Royle was such a prolific inventor that he took over a firm of  patent attorneys in Manchester, now known as Wilson Gunn.


Royle's main business may have been commercial and industrial, but he is best remembered for a household innovation. It solved a problem facing many Victorian families: in a large household, a large teapot made sense - until you tried to lift it. His solution was the self-pouring teapot, initially produced as a novelty promotional item but later manufactured in thousands. It worked by a pumping mechanism: the lid, lifted and lowered, acted as a piston to increase pressure inside the pot, forcing tea out through its down-curved spout into the waiting cups below. The only disadvantage: the steam hole in the lid had to be covered with a finger, making pouring an uncomfortable if not dangerous experience.


4 comments:

Ralph Hancock said...

It's interesting how these terracotta buildings seem to be associated with the makers of domestic appliances. Sometimes the ceramic link is obvious, as with John Bolding's sanitaryware works at the corner of Davies Street and South Molton Lane:
http://goo.gl/TnYXJr
and Radiant House in Mortimer Street, built by the Pither family, makers of tiled stoves:
http://goo.gl/j71kPl

Not so sure how this works with James Royle, though maybe the teapots provide the link. Or perhaps it's just the early 20th century date of all these buildings.

HughB said...

There's no doorway - does the shop proprietor syphon people in off the street using an unseen spout above the shop?

Ralph Hancock said...

The door's to the left of this picture, a fine piece of last-gasp-of-classical grotesque:
http://goo.gl/fv5FO3

CarolineLD said...

Yes, it is a rather good door - although I'm sure Mr Royle would have preferred the siphoning method!

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